Proponents of globalization have been battling some serious headwinds lately.
Nonetheless, there’s much to learn from looking across borders in areas like innovation. This is why I eagerly awaited the recent Finovate Europe conference, held in London February 7-8.
U.S.-based Finovate events typically include a smattering of global players, but this time the balance was flipped: three-quarters of the 70 presenters hailed from countries outside North America.
Each had seven minutes to deliver a live demo of its latest product to an audience of roughly 1,500 bankers, fintech professionals, and investors.
One notable difference in this EU-centric edition (yes, I’m still counting Britain in that cohort) is the impact of the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) currently being implemented across the continent.
This EU regulation in part fosters the development of new payments products and services by establishing data-sharing ground rules across various bank and nonbank parties.
Not surprisingly, the business models of a healthy share of the presenting companies are predicated on the data access afforded by PSD2.
This is a space worth watching, as it’s a decent bet that a PSD2-like rule will emerge in the U.S. in the not-too-distant future as the recent interest in open, or public, APIs (application program interface) will attest.
Several of these concepts also incorporated an aspect of artificial intelligence, or “robo-advice” to deliver financial services.
There are countless ways such capabilities can be leveraged, and often the most commercially successful avoid reaching beyond consumers’ comfort zones.
That’s why one of my favorites was MoneyHub, a Bristol, UK-based company offering a Twitter-style feed with personalized suggestions (“it looks like you could afford to transfer $200 to savings”), education, and gamification with quiz questions like “what is the current federal funds rate?” or “how much did you spend on dining out last month?”
Security was another recurring and inevitable theme, with multiple firms jockeying to move beyond the password with facial recognition technologies and other identity solutions.
It’s rather chilling to realize that before most financial institutions have even adopted biometric screening, the next wave of providers is already warning against the ability to spoof such systems with photos, videos, and the like.
It seems almost too good to be true that Finovate’s seven Best in Show winners (determined entirely by audience vote) represented seven separate countries.
Here’s a quick recap of the honorees. Side note: Although none of these companies received my vote, I certainly understand their appeal:
• Crealogix demoed a virtual reality-based online banking and personal financial management (PFM) portal. It packed a definite “wow” factor but left me wondering how much substance it added—until I reminded myself I’m not its target market.
• Backbase was one of the better-known firms on stage, having provided B2B services since 2003.
Its new, digital-first business banking platform promises to leverage PSD2 to simplify and unify various processes, efficiently managing hundreds of disparate documents.
• eToro, a repeat winner, describes itself as a social trading network. Its platform allows investors to share their own portfolios, and to copy and follow others’.
The new CopyFunds feature democratizes the portfolio process, enabling partners to create and distribute their own funds. I jotted in my notebook “really cool—and a little scary.”
• Tink offers an “independent PFM app,” capitalizing on PSD2 to offer aggregated information across financial institution relationships.
Already live in its native Sweden, the service now aims to roll out in other countries, including through financial institution partners.
• SaleMove, the one U.S. winner, offers an engagement platform that aspires to place the online consumer experience at or above the in-person experience, using “guided co-browsing” and a “hybrid human/robo-experience.”
• Dorsum demoed a botboarding platform, branded Daisy, that leads new customers through the credit card onboarding process.
• Memento, headquartered in Iceland, bills itself as a “bank-to-social engagement platform” and operates on the premise that “money is social.”
It connects users across social platforms—and across financial institutions—into circles for a variety of financial needs, including “reminding privately or shaming publicly” about unpaid debts.